The Vital African-American Marketplace

According to a recent Nielsen report “African-Americans: Still Vital, Still Growing,” the number of Blacks in America in 2012 reached almost 43 million, representing approximately 13.7% of the U.S. population. Since 2000, the total U.S. population only increased by 11.3%, while the Black population increased by 17.9%, a rate that is 1.6 times greater than overall growth. While the Black population continues to be the largest racial minority in the United States (Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race) it must be noted that in 2012, for the first time, total Hispanic households outnumbered Black households, just slightly, with a representation of 14.81 million and 14.46 million households, respectively.



When asked which term Blacks preferred, 44% preferred Black, 43% preferred African-American, and 11% did not care.

Black Population Distribution


% of Total





West Indian








Source: Nielsen, September 2012

Family members related by birth or marriage comprise 66% of all American households and 64% of African-American households. A Black household is 127% more likely to include a single parent, most often a woman. There is also a strong cultural precedent for intergenerational family members living in one household. Almost 19% of grandparents living with their grandchildren are African-American, and 48% of Black grandparents who live in the same household with their grandchildren serve as their primary caregivers.

  • The U.S. Black population is 43 million strong. Larger than 163 of the 195 countries in the world including Argentina, Poland, Canada and Australia
  • Black households are 127% more likely to include a single parent, most often a woman
  • 48% of Black grandparents who live in the same household with their grandchildren serve as their primary caregivers

On average, the African-American population is 14% younger than the American population as a whole. The median age for African-Americans is 32, and 54% of the Black population is under the age of 35.

African-American Generational Age Dispersion (% share)



% of Total




Gen Y






Gen X



Great Gen



Source: Nielsen, September 2012

African-Americans are 72% more likely to live in an urban locale in and around a “Big City Urban” center. 30% of all African-American households can be found in these centers; a rate that is 13% higher than households found in the total population in these centers. Overall, African-American households are as suburban as the rest of America with 25% of African-American households in suburban areas surrounding large cities.

Housing Locales for African-Americans vs. Total Population


AA Households Total: 14,457,645

Total Households:118,582,568

Big City Urban

  • 29.38%
  • 17.08%

Metropolitan Suburban

  • 24.86%
  • 23.91%

Second-Tier Cities & Satellites

  • 21.75%
  • 18.13%

Town & Country

  • 24.01%
  • 40.88%

Source: Nielsen, September 2012

The average income for African-American households nationwide is $47,290 with 35% earning $50,000 or more. with an overall aggregate household income level of $695.6 billion, African-American continue to be viable consumers with a collective buying power estimated to reach $1.1 trillion by 2015.In addition, the Black population and its aggregate buying power is overall more geographically widespread and diverse than other ethnic or racial segments. Companies seeking to connect with more affluent African-American will find, in certain market areas, there is a correlation between a large Black population and a large base of higher-earning Black households.

The report observes that there is a unique opportunity for engaging African-American consumers that lies in a company’s ability to make that consumer feel connected, respected and reflected as a viable consumer of a product. While African-Americans are voracious consumers of media such as television, radio and print, many companies assume that because there are no language barriers, there is no need to advertise to black audiences through African-American media outlets, says the report. This is a missed opportunity for companies, who can use such outlets to reach black consumers in trusted environments where blacks see themselves most often reflected. Consider the following facts on blacks’ perceptions on advertising, according to the study:

  • 91% believe that Black media is more relevant to them
  • 81% believe that products advertised on Black media are more relevant to them
  • 78% would like to see more Black models/actors used in ads, and over half (51%) would purchase a product if the advertising portrayed Blacks positively
  • 77% believe that Black media has a better understanding of the needs and issues that affect them
  • 73% believe that Black media keeps them in touch with their heritage
  • 68% want to see more commercials directed specifically to Black audiences
  • 67% want to see more advertising targeting Black consumers

Source: Burrell 40

And the the report concludes by noting that one reason search engines and social networks are so successful is their ability to gather data on users and personalize their shopping experiences with targeted ads. Black digital consumers indicate they are very receptive to advertising on mobile devices.

  • 62% OK with advertising if it means free access to content free
  • 43% more likely to look at ads with interesting video
  • 37% say that ads with custom info based on location more useful
  • 31% enjoy ad that have interactive features
  • 29% more likely to click on ads with multimedia elements

Source: Nielsen

For more information about the study, and access to the free PDF file of the complete report with charts and graphs, please visit here.



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